On September 17, Senate held its first meeting of the academic year, discussing the budget, mental health, and the promotion of consent on campus. Senate is the governing body at McGill that controls academic matters, and has representatives from across the university including administrators, faculty, and staff, as well as 13 elected student representatives.
Cuts to provincial funding
Principal Suzanne Fortier addressed a question from a group of Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) senators regarding the potential effects of the recently announced $172 million in provincial budget cuts to universities in Quebec. According to Fortier, the cuts were anticipated and largely accounted for in the April budget.
“The impact for us is really on not being able to make additional investments that we were hoping to make,” said Fortier. “We don’t think we’re in a crisis situation.”
Fortier did, however, emphasize that the levels of government funding relative to universities in other provinces do have an impact on McGill’s position in university rankings. “Look at those [universities] ahead of us. They enjoy far more favourable financial situations [than McGill],” said Fortier.
Consent and harassment policy discussed, will not target athletes
In a written response to a question about the promotion of consent on campus submitted by Arts Senator Kareem Ibrahim and SSMU VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Olliver Dyens indicated that the training for frosh coordinators, frosh leaders, and orientation staff has been revised to include information about consent and the bystander effect, and that the 6,000 health kits distributed during Orientation Week included information on consent.
Dyens also indicated that the consent campaign planned for October will replace the Forum on Safe Space announced last March.
Addressing a follow-up question from Stewart-Kanigan regarding the institutionalization of consent training for athletes, Dyens said that although Athletics coaches and staff will participate in the newly introduced bystander intervention program, athletes will not receive specific consent training.
“I’m not going to target one group of students,” said Dyens.
Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Lydia White presented the annual report on the University’s harassment, sexual harassment, and discrimination policy, which indicated that 67 per cent of the complaints did not proceed beyond the inquiry stage, thereby not leading to an investigation by the harassment assessors.
In light of this statistic, Medicine Senator David Benrimoh expressed concern that the policy might be failing to fulfill the needs of those who have been harassed or discriminated against.
White argued that these people might be choosing another avenue to pursue their case, such as a complaint to a dean, but noted that no statistics are being collected about those cases.
“If they go somewhere else, we have no way of knowing whether they went or what happened,” said White.
Changes in mental health services
Senate also discussed its response to a question submitted by Stewart-Kanigan and Arts & Science Senator Chloe Rourke regarding the progress of the McGill Student Services’ Mental Health Working Group.
According to Dyens’ response, the group’s report will be available on the Student Services website by the end of the month, and its recommendations are already being implemented. These recommendations include setting up waiting list referrals between McGill Counselling and Mental Health and mental health first aid training for staff.
In response to a follow-up question from Benrimoh regarding concrete hiring and infrastructure changes to mental health provision at McGill, Executive Director of Student Services Jana Luker noted that waiting times at mental health have been reduced to less than two weeks due to staffing changes.
“We are doing this in different ways, but the access issue seems to be under control at this point,” said Luker.
Luker added that outsourcing services during exams could be an option if made necessary by increased demand.
Research integrity, Hiawatha Belt Flag
Research Integrity Officer Abraham Fuks presented the Annual Report Concerning the Investigation of Research Misconduct for 2013-14. According to Fuks, six allegations of research misconduct were brought forward against McGill researchers, four of which had sufficient evidence to proceed as investigations. Fuks hypothesized that access to digital information has increased both the opportunity for researchers to falsify data and the likelihood of them being caught doing so.
Stewart-Kanigan also asked for an explanation as to why SSMU’s request to have the Hiawatha Belt Flag raised on National Aboriginal Day, which was June 21, was rejected. Secretary-General Stephen Strople addressed the decision.
“I would not characterize the response of the University as rejection. […] We were not able to fully analyze and consider the request in time for that date.” Strople emphasized, however, that there was a special page put on the McGill website for the occasion.
Following the presentation of the report of the Academic Policy Committee, Senate adopted a final set of changes for a new bachelor’s degree program in bioengineering.
During the opening remarks, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa provided an update on the McTavish construction project. It is projected to end by late October, with access to the street expected in early November.
“But really, we’re talking about construction in Quebec, so who really knows,” he said.